Moths of North Carolina
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View PDFGracillariidae Members:
Caloptilia Members:
2 NC Records

Caloptilia alnivorella (Chambers, 1875) - Alder Leafminer Moth

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Superfamily: Gracillarioidea Family: GracillariidaeSubfamily: GracillariinaeP3 Number: 330108.00 MONA Number: 587.00
Comments: Caloptilia is a large genus with nearly 300 described species; 64 species have been described from North America north of Mexico. The larvae mostly feed on woody plants and begin as leaf-mining sap-feeders. The latter instars usually exit the mines and feed within a conical roll that begins at the leaf apex or at the tip of a leaf lobe.
Species Status: Caloptilia alnivorella belongs to a cluster of closely related forms that specialize on alders. They have been treated by different authors as either separate species or a single variable species. Forbes (1923) provides details about this complex and some of the ongoing taxonomic issues. McDunnough (1946) found genitalic differences that support recognizing C. alnivorella as a valid species.
Field Guide Descriptions: Online Photographs: MPG, BugGuide, GBIF, BOLDTechnical Description, Adults: Chambers, 1985; McDunnough, 1946.Technical Description, Immature Stages: Eiseman, 2019                                                                                 
Adult Markings: The following is based in part on Chambers' (1985a) original description of specimens from Colorado. The antenna and the palps are somewhat shorter and thicker than most Caloptilia. The maxillary palp is whitish, with dark gray or brownish spots. The face, third joint of the labial palp, and apex of the second joint are brown. The antenna is grayish-brown and faintly annulated with gray. The thorax and abdomen are dark gray. The forewing is rather nondescript. The ground color varies from gray to light brown and is mottled with numerous small and irregularly arranged brownish spots or blotches. Some specimens are simply mottled gray and black (McDunnough (1946). The cilia of the forewing is gray and dusted with brown near the apex. There is a narrow pale ocherous marginal line in the middle. The hindwing and cilia are paler gray. The legs are grayish with whitish bands on the tibiae, and the hind legs generally lighter colored than the front and middle legs. Caloptilia pulchella and C. alnicolella are two closely related and morphologically similar species. These are found at more northern latitudes and presumably do not occur in North Carolina.
Adult ID Requirements: Identifiable from good quality photos of unworn specimens.
Immatures and Development: A young larva initially makes a short, narrow, linear mine on the upper leaf surface. It then abandons this and rolls the leaf edge downward from the side. Pupation occurs in a compact, whitish cocoon under the curled leaf edge (Chambers 1875). McDunnough (1945) observed that the larva made a large, tentiform shelter by bending over the lateral edge of the leaf. When the mid-rib formed the base of the fold, the two lateral edges of the leaf were bound together to produce a kind of tent.
Larvae ID Requirements: Identifiable from good quality photos, especially where associated with known host plants.
Distribution in North Carolina
Distribution: Caloptilia alnivorella primarily has a boreal distribution. It occurs in Russia in the Old World. In North America, the range extends from Alaska to Newfoundland, and southward to California, Colorado, New Mexico, Michigan and Vermont (Eiseman, 2019). Our records from Ashe Co. may be part of a southern Appalachian disjunct.
County Map: Clicking on a county returns the records for the species in that county.
Flight Dates:
 High Mountains (HM) ‚Č• 4,000 ft.
 Low Mountains (LM) < 4,000 ft.
 Piedmont (Pd)
 Coastal Plain (CP)

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Flight Comments: The flight season is poorly documented, but adults appear to be active mostly during the summer months. As of 2020, our two records are both from July.
Habitats and Life History
Habitats: Local populations are strongly associated with alders, which are typically found in moist or wet, open habitats.
Larval Host Plants: The known hosts are Mountain Alder (A. incana) and Green Alder (A. crispa; Eiseman, 2019). Local populations may possibly use Hazel Alder (Alnus serrulata) in North Carolina given that A. incana does not occur in the state and A. crispa is only found on Roan Mountain and vicinity. - View
Observation Methods: The adults are attracted to lights and the leaf mines are readily evident on alder leaves. Our very few records for North Carolina are all from UV-light traps.
Status in North Carolina
Natural Heritage Program Status:
Natural Heritage Program Ranks: GNR SU
State Protection:
Comments: This species appears to be uncommon or rare in the state. It is primarily a boreal species, and populations in North Carolina may be southern disjuncts. However, we currently do not have sufficient information on its distribution and abundance to assess its conservation status.